Alabama Endangered Species Act project review and guidance for other federal trust resources 

The Alabama Ecological Services Field Office is here to assist entities in the State of Alabama with meeting their responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The objective is to allow a proposed action to proceed while avoiding impacts to listed species by negotiation and project modification to incorporate protective measures.   

The ESA provides two avenues for project review: 

  1. Section 7 Section 7
    Section 7 Consultation The Endangered Species Act (ESA) directs all Federal agencies to work to conserve endangered and threatened species and to use their authorities to further the purposes of the Act. Section 7 of the Act, called "Interagency Cooperation," is the mechanism by which Federal agencies ensure the actions they take, including those they fund or authorize, do not jeopardize the existence of any listed species.

    Learn more about Section 7
     of the ESA applies to Federal actions (projects involving federal permits, funding, authorization or activities).   
  2. Section 10 of the ESA applies to non-Federal actions that are likely to take listed species. This process includes development of a Habitat Conservation Plan which will be accompanied by an Incidental Take Permit. The Alabama Ecological Services Field Office will provide information to help you decide if this is the right choice for you. We recommend you coordinate with our office early if you anticipate this to be the most appropriate path for your project.    

Project Planning & Review  

Project planning broadly falls into three types
  • Technical Assistance:  For anyone seeking assistance or guidance on conservation of federally listed or at-risk species. During technical assistance our office will provide information on what species may occur within or near your project area, recommend ways to avoid impacts to trust resources, and assist with interpreting Endangered Species Act regulations.   
  • Informal Consultation: For Federal action, permit, fund, or license (Federal nexus) that is not likely to adversely affect species or critical habitat.  
  • Formal Consultation: For Federal action, permit, fund, or license (Federal nexus) that is likely to adversely affect species or critical habitat.  

Submitting Project Review Packages  

All requests submitted to the Alabama Ecological Services office must contain the Project Code identified on the Official Species List generated in IPaC.   

To begin the review process with our office, generate an Official Species List and project code from the Information for Planning and Consultation (IPaC) tool. The Official Species List will include all federally-listed threatened, endangered, or candidate species that may occur in the vicinity of the action area action area
All areas to be affected directly or indirectly by the federal action and not merely the immediate area involved in the action.

Learn more about action area
and includes a map of the action area. Until the proposed project is implemented, check IPaC IPaC
Information for Planning and Consultation (IPaC) is a project planning tool that streamlines the USFWS environmental review process

Learn more about IPaC
 every 90 days to ensure that listed, proposed or candidate species information for the action area is current.    

Training Videos: IPaC Extended Overview / How to Request an Official Species List

Submitting Project Review Packages

The following steps provide an outline of the consultation process and a list of required information necessary to complete our project review in a timely manner.  

  1. Action Area and Project Description

  2. Evaluate Suitable Habitat

  3. Species Effect Determinations

  4. Critical Habitat Effect Determinations

  5. Consider Other Federal Trust Resources

  6. Submit Project Review Package

  7. Additional Resources

Step 1: Action Area and Project Description 

A detailed description of the proposed project and action area is essential for a thorough review by a biologist.  For consultation under the Endangered Species Act, the action area is defined as “all areas to be affected directly or indirectly by the Federal action and not merely the immediate area involved in the action”. A detailed account and analysis of all project activities is necessary to encompass all temporary and permanent changes to “land, water, and air” caused by activities that would not occur but for the proposed action and are reasonable certain to occur. Document a detailed project description including:   

  • Does this project involve a federal agency (through funding, authorization, or direct undertaking)?    
  • Project location  

  • Project purpose    

  • Project timeline    

  • Map(s) delineating action area (projects can be delineated in IPaC)  

  • Construction and maintenance methods, equipment, and materials being used   

  • Range of impacts, such as ground disturbance, changes in water quality and quantity (surface and groundwater), air quality, artificial lighting, noise disturbance   

  • Project planning map(s) and diagram(s), including relevant engineering specifications or drawings 

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Step 2: Evaluate Suitable Habitat   

Determine whether listed, proposed, or candidate species may occur based on the habitat within the action area. For each species included in the IPaC report, use the best available information (e.g., relevant literature, Five-Year Reviews and other information available on the USFWS Species Profiles pages, and surveys to document habitat assessments) to determine whether the action area contains suitable habitat. Habitat assessments or surveys must be conducted by a qualified professional during appropriate survey times. Handling or research of endangered plants and animals is a regulated activity. State and federal permits may be required for certain species.    

  • If you can confirm suitable habitat is absent within the action area, document what source(s) of information you consulted and provide a thorough justification for this conclusion. Clearly explain why the environment at the project site is not suitable for listed species.    

  • If you determine that suitable habitat may be present or are uncertain whether habitat may support listed species, a detailed habitat assessment is recommended.    

  • If suitable habitat occurs within the action area, species surveys are recommended. Document that suitable habitat is present along with the source(s) of information you consulted and justification for this conclusion. Include any survey reports in your project review package. If suitable habitat occurs within the action area but surveys are not conducted, include this information in your project review package.   

 

Is the species’ habitat present in the Action Area?   

Comments 

Species survey results    

Conclusion    

Next step    

No  

Consider potential for the species’ habitat to become established in the action area  

 

Not necessary  

Species not present in action area    

Coordination not required    

Yes   

Plan and implement surveys and interpret results in coordination with USFWS and/or in accordance with USFWS-recommended survey protocols.  

 

Survey(s) support that species are absent in the action area    

Species not present in action area  

Coordination not required  

Yes   

 

Survey data in the action area are unavailable or inconclusive  

Assume species is present in action area   

Initiate coordination  

Yes   

 

Survey(s) confirm that species are present in the action area    

Species is present    

Initiate coordination  

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Step 3: Species Effect Determinations 

Identify stressors or effects to the species and to the essential physical and biological features and primary constituent elements of any critical habitat that overlaps with the action area. Are any species likely to be exposed to stressors caused by the proposed action? Consider all consequences of the action and assess the potential for each life stage of the species that occurs in the action area to be exposed to the stressors. Deconstruct the action into its component activities or parts to be sure that you do not miss any part of the action that could cause effects to the species.    

For each species included in the IPaC report, determine whether the project will have “no effect” or “may affect” a species.  

  •  A ‘no effect’ conclusion would be appropriate if the proposed action – or other activities that are caused by the proposed action – would have no consequences to listed species or critical habitat. Concurrence from the Service is not required.    
  • A ‘may affect’ determination would be appropriate if the proposed action – or other activities that are caused by the proposed action – may have consequences to listed species or critical habitat. If a “may affect” determination is made for a species, please include all conservation measures proposed to avoid or minimize potential impacts. This will help you determine if a may affect determination is “likely to adversely affect” or “not likely to adversely affect” the species.    

  • A proposed action warrants a "may affect, not likely to be adversely affect" finding when its effects – and the effects of other activities that are caused by the proposed action – are wholly beneficial, insignificant or discountable. Beneficial effects have contemporaneous positive effects without any adverse effects to the species or habitat.  Insignificant effects relate to the size of the impact and include those effects that are undetectable, not measurable, or cannot be evaluated.  Discountable effects are those extremely unlikely to occur. These determinations require informal consultation and written concurrence from the Service.   

  • A proposed action warrants a “may affect, likely to adversely affect” finding when the proposed action – or other activities caused by the proposed action – will have negative consequences to listed species or resources. These determinations require formal consultation and written concurrence from the Service.    

  • Note that for some species or projects, IPaC will present you with Determination Keys.  You may be able to use one or more Determination Keys to assist with your determinations on your action.

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Step 4: Critical Habitat Effect Determinations  

If the IPaC report indicates that the project action area overlaps with federally designated or proposed critical habitat, please evaluate whether project will have “no effect” or “may affect” and is “likely to adversely affect” or “not likely to adversely affect” critical habitat.    

Identify stressors or effects to the essential physical and biological features of any critical habitat that overlaps with the action area. Deconstruct the action into its component parts to be sure that you do not miss any part of the action that could cause effects to critical habitat.    

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Step 5: Consider Other Federal Trust Resources   

IPaC will also indicate the potential presence of migratory birds and other bird species of concern within the vicinity of the action area. To prevent and minimize potential impacts to migratory birds, please consult the Service’s Migratory Bird Program Conservation Measures page.    

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Step 6: Submit Project Review Package   

Federal agencies and their non-federal designated representatives are not required to contact us for “no effect” determinations. For “may affect, not likely to adversely affect” determinations, please submit your project review package, including detailed project description, effects determination, conservation measures, and all supporting documentation.    

Non-Federal applicants may also request a project review to ensure compliance with the Endangered Species Act.  

Submission Guidelines: 

All requests submitted to the Alabama Ecological Services office must contain the Project Code identified on the Official Species List generated in IPaC.   

Submit requests by email to Alabama@fws.gov  

Or by Mail:  

Bill Pearson, Field Supervisor   
Alabama Ecological Services Field Office   
1208 Main Street   
Daphne, AL  36526   

Review time: All project review packages (except projects involving formal consultation) are typically reviewed by a biologist within 30 days. Packages that have determined a project “may affect, and is not likely to adversely affect” may take up to 60 days for review. This timeline is extended if a project review package is incomplete and additional information is required.  

Keep records: Maintain a complete copy of the project review package in your files since it will become an integral part of your official record of compliance.    

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Additional Resources

Our biologists are here to assist with developing sound and effective practices that protect and conserve fish and wildlife resources and their habitats. Below, we offer a collection of resources developed either by our office or our close partners that may be helpful in planning your projects and...
This library is a collection of conservation measures and best management practices (BMP's) for species and activities throughout Alabama.
This library collection includes general information regarding interagency consultations under the Endangered Species Act, as well as national guidance and policies.